So I’ve been working on this post for three days now. I’d love to say it’s due the incredible insights I’ve been busy preparing to share with you, but in reality it’s because I have been beyond exhausted. We are in the throws of cutting top front teeth, which in Baby E’s case involves being up all hours of the night, followed by cranky, napless days and a constant desire to nurse. I can honestly say I have never been so tired in my life, which has included spending a year being up for 72 hours straight followed by maybe 8 hours of sleep while I was working three jobs and going to grad school, and, more recently, the newborn days.
I try to avoid the “woe is me” mom posts on this blog, but I’ve run into quite a few moms of older babies and toddlers who are also beyond exhausted, who thought that the sleepless nights were over, and who want desperately to know that they are not alone. To those moms, rest easy (no pun intended) your child isn’t the only one going through sleepless nights accompanied by cranky days that are made worse by a new found distaste for naps. You haven’t marred your child for life, you’re not failing as a mom, and it’s OK to be not so thrilled with motherhood at the moment.
For myself, the worst part isn’t the complete lack of sleep, I can deal with that. It’s the accompanying anxiety, worry and unfounded fear that sets in late at night when you’re up with your baby and not thinking clearly. Your imagination starts running wild (why yes, I DID want to have a vivid picture of a possessed Linda Blair run through my mind at 3 AM, thank you), you start fearing the worst (are they terribly ill? Do they have some sort of condition? What did I do wrong today that they aren’t sleeping?), and inevitably when you finally have the chance to go back to sleep you can’t because you’re in such a state, only to be woken up a half hour after you finally fall asleep so you can do it all over again until morning. You’re now exhausted and emotionally drained, running on coffee and the fact that you can’t (or shouldn’t) put your fussy baby in a safe place, run to the basement and hide/sleep for the day, and instead need to deal and push through. So at this point you’re either commiserating with me or thinking I am a psych case. Either one is fine.
In an effort to not just commiserate but to also make a positive impact on the lives of other sleep deprived moms, here are my top five tips for getting through the long nights and cranky days.
Top Five Ways to Survive The Sleepless Nights:
- Do something for yourself every day
Whether it’s as basic as taking a shower where you shave your legs AND wash your hair (you pampered princess), putting on your makeup or giving yourself a hand treatment, studies show that women, especially moms, who do something nice for themselves each day have significantly higher serotonin levels then their non-primped counterparts.
- Revert Back to Sleeping When the Baby Sleeps or Take a Lunchtime Power Nap
Sleep begets sleep, so their naps may be sadly short, but even 15 minutes of rest for you can make a big difference in your mental state and alertness. If you’re a working mom, see if you can sneak in a 15 minute snooze at lunch.
Yup, even when you’re dog tired exhausted exercise can be a good pick-me-up and can help you sleep better, which, although you’re getting little sleep at the moment, making the most of the bits you are getting is key. Combine it with some time with nature on a walk with baby. Can’t get outside? Visit Cassey Ho at http://www.blogilates.com/ for some awesome and quick 15 minute routines.
- Give Your Body the Best Fuel You Can
It’s easy to look to sugary treats for a burst of energy or a big plate of mac n cheese for some comfort, but in reality both will only end up making you feel sluggish. Opt for healthy foods to give you the energy you need to get through the long days and nights. Follow the 80/20 rule and you can enjoy your cravings, just in moderation. Give into temptation 20% of the time, and stay on a healthy track for the other 80%. This translates into dessert or an indulgent meal once or twice a week. You’ll have more energy and feel better about your choices at the end of the day. I Promise.
- Reward Yourself
I know, I just said to put the brownie down. Have a glass of wine (which, by the way, has many health benefits, as opposed to a brownie), take a few minutes with your favorite book, or just sit and relax. Do it. You deserve it.
Other options I highly recommend, venting to your fellow mom friends, crying when you need to, and reminding yourself hourly if necessary that you are doing the best you can as a mom. If baby’s sleeplessness is really starting to concern you, talk to your pediatrician, there are many ways to help little ones sleep (I won’t get into the cry it out, nurse them to sleep, etc debates here, but talk to your Dr and make the best choice for your little one and your family!)